How master franchisees Ash De Cruz and Chelsey Gibson found the dream career they were looking for at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness.

Oxygen Yoga & Fitness studios are run by franchise owners, which means when you come in for your yoga or fitness classes, you might have got to know the owners of your local studio. But another essential piece of Oxygen Yoga & Fitness is our master franchisees. To share a bit more about what this role entails and how it helps to bring the best possible yoga and fitness experience to life, we chatted with Ash De Cruz. Along with Ash’s wife Chelsey Gibson, Ash serves as master franchisee to a territory of Oxygen Yoga & Fitness, including OYF London West 5 and OYF Upper Richmond.  

Ash describes the master franchisee role as “The conduit between studio owners and our head office”. Ash and Chelsey are involved in every step of franchising new studios, from marketing and outreach to potential new franchisees to providing support to studios once they’ve opened.

But how did Ash and Chelsey find this role and why was it a great fit for them?

“I’ve always been kind of a fitness fanatic,” Ash explains. “I played, still do actually, play soccer and then went to school for kinesiology”.

Ash shares “My ambition was always to find a job where I could be outside and not necessarily sitting down every day. After school I became a professional soccer coach and was doing that for a while, coaching kids”.

Ash wanted to find a career that was “involving like minded people while also obviously having a business aspect to it”. Stepping into the master franchisee role at OYF ticked a lot of these boxes.

It was Ash’s mother-in-law who first found Oxygen and when she did “the stars kind of aligned” for Ash and Chelsey to get involved with Oxygen Yoga & Fitness too. Ash explains his mother-in-law had decided to open the first studio in Southwest Ontario, and Chelsey “is from a business background, has owned franchises in the past along with her family and they were looking for something new and [Ash] had just finished school in kinesiology and was looking for what was next”.

And thus, Ash and Chelsey took the opportunity to become master franchisees, a role which comes with a myriad of different opportunities and responsibilities.

“There’s a number of facets to it” Ash shares. “We obviously are looking to expand growth within the territory we oversee so we’re looking to how we can add more franchises into that territory by kind of marketing and outreach and obviously engaging with members of studios already in the area to see if they have interest in opening up their own studio. And then once [..] that interest becomes kind of serious, we then work with the new franchisees on everything it takes to open up their new business. So, everything from lease agreements to putting work out to tender for the construction of the studio. And then once the studio has opened, we’re there for ongoing support”.

As Ash and Chelsey continue to support the studios, there are two main things Ash hopes members can take away.

“I hope that they, first of all, take away a sense of belonging and feeling that they can turn up to somewhere that has no judgment and be able to practice alongside someone that’s maybe been doing yoga for one day or someone that’s been doing it for fifteen, sixteen years” Ash shares. “So, I think their comfort in being able to walk into a studio is the biggest piece”.

“I think the other thing is obviously them being able to achieve the goals. No matter what those goals may be, if they’re going home every time saying you know what I feel better about myself, that’s a win to me and that’s kind of music to my ears.”

Of course, overseeing studios and franchisees from the beginning steps of their opening to the point where members are walking out of the studio with this sense of belonging and achievement doesn’t come without its own challenges.

The thing Ash found most challenging about stepping into the master franchisee role was that “there is a lot that you don’t know and you don’t know until you do”, but this challenge has also brought Ash a new level of understanding.

“I had never been involved in what it takes to actually construct a studio or what it takes to work on lease agreements” Ash explains. “My background is really on the operations of how to run a studio and how to sell memberships. And learning those pieces has been the most interesting and now my portfolio has expanded from not just being able to show and teach about how to run a business but how to actually open one as well”.

For Ash, the biggest highlight of being a master franchisee so far has been opening their second studio in London, Ontario. Opening this studio was great not only to “double the number of studios in the city, but also to be the first that we went from its fruition all the way through to its opening the doors. That was a really nice feeling when the doors opened, and the members came flooding in and to kind of know that we were instrumental alongside the owner in getting that unit off the ground”.

With this and many other successes under their belts, Ash and Chelsey are sure to still have plenty of opportunities and challenges in their future.

“There’s two things that excite me about the future,” Ash shares. “The first is something that’s been forever part of Oxygen, but I think will continue to be one of the biggest pieces and that’s just its ability to change with the times. One of the things that really attracted me to Oxygen is it’s not pigeonholed in what it offered”. Ash looks forward to Oxygen’s ability to change and grow their library of classes as time goes on.

In addition, Ash is excited about Oxygen Yoga & Fitness’ international growth, for “the credibility that comes now with having a studio in the US and looking at other opportunities across the world […]as well as obviously the actual expansion into these countries”.

In part because of this credibility, and in part because of “post pandemic, the need for people to kind of refresh their goals are in life and what makes them happy” Ash believes it’s a great time for people to look into franchising an Oxygen Yoga & Fitness studio.

If you’re considering franchising an Oxygen Yoga & Fitness studio or are in the beginning stages of your franchise, Ash’s advice is to “just dive in and to get involved with as much as possible. So, whether that’s building relationships with other businesses or other communities or getting involved with Facebook groups or other social media aspects of the businesses is really what I would do”.

The advice Ash leaves us on sounds akin to his own career goals to find a job where you can be outside.

“Try to get out of the four walls of the studio you’re operating.” Ash shares. “Get yourself out there. Spread [..] the word, if you will, of what Oxygen is and what we do”.